Best Place to Find Vintage Furs and Suitcases

Graham Crackers

Debra Franklin travels across Colorado and Kansas, hitting every estate sale she can find, always searching for anything vintage. The fruits of her labor stuff her store, Graham Crackers, and spill over into her next-door neighbor's shop, Antiques Etc. A mink wrap from the '30s will come in somewhere between $65 and $90, while a three-piece luggage set from the '40s will set you back about $85 -- if you haggle right.


According to the designers at vintageskivvies. com, the full, elastic waistband is the worst thing that's ever happened to men's underwear. The company specialty is tie-style boxer shorts with button flies that are modeled after the standard-issue underwear worn by soldiers during World War II -- an homage to a kinder, gentler, less restrictive era of underclothes. And although, technically, the Web-based retailer traffics in panties, don't expect any frou-frou fabrics or floral print: These shorts are 100 percent cotton, and the color scheme ranges from plaid to, well, plaid. Vintageskivvies.com celebrates the classic boxer -- and a brief-free world.
Walk into Bridget Dornbirer's spic-and-span warehouse this spring, and you'll feel like you've discovered the Garden of Eden. Children's clothing swings from the racks like a zillion lollipops on hangers, all raging with color, blooming with itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny details of lace and ribbons, and cute beyond belief. Some mothers become blubbering fools at the very sight of it. But the best part of Petite Patoot Warehouse is that the jewels are all heavily discounted new and gently used items from upscale boutiques. Be sure to shop early, though: The warehouse is only open on Fridays and Saturdays while the inventory lasts, so dry your tears and park your patoot.

Deb Henriksen's motto is "For the Core, From the Core," and few designers keep it as real as she does. The former environmental scientist gave up her good day job to pursue her fashion dreams full time -- and we're lucky she did. Her first designs were clever, well-made screen-printed T-shirts that featured, most memorably, a cat skull and crossbones. But in the last year, she's branched out into a full line of made-to-measure treasures, offered at her Equillibrium showroom/boutique. Henriksen admires Betsey Johnson, and her new dresses and skirts reflect that sensibility: Simple, clean lines meet punk-rock ruffles. That's hard core.


When Lynne Bruning walks into a room, you can't miss the former-architect-turned-fashion-designer. Her outrageous, over-the-top fashions just scream out for people to come and investigate. Start with her key skirt: Unadorned, it would just be a simple, denim mini. But with more than 500 keys sewn onto it -- not all, she swears, are to the homes of ex-boyfriends -- the skirt becomes a walking piece of art and music. The duster takes on new meaning in her hands: She weaves them with surveyor's marking line -- yes, the green and pink string you buy at Home Depot -- and El wire. Talk about a neon extravaganza. But Bruning is at her best when she turns to her simple, elegant, bias-cut dresses. The flowing gowns won her top prizes during last year's Fashion Group International of Denver competition and resulted in an internship with New York designer David Rodriguez. Way to sew!


Fashion's obsession with all things rockabilly is long over, but Crown Mercantile still carries a wide selection of retro-inspired bowling shirts, from the understated to the full-on psycho-billy. Don't forget the witty T-shirts to go under them, or the excellent accessories to finish off the look. And for the ladies waiting for their stray (straight-gay) to stop preening, there's a host of smart skirts, blouses and housewares to peruse. Good style never goes out of fashion.
Minerva's Hat and Fashion Boutique is the ultimate window-shopping experience. You may not always go in, but it's always worth stopping and gawking at owner Minerva Smith's glorious selection of hats, including everything from show-stopping Sunday bests to African kufis. If you don't stop in and admire the exquisite handiwork, however, you're most certainly missing out. But be warned: Minerva's is known to induce fantasies of being as chic and turned-out as Greta Garbo or Dorothy Dandridge.
The House of Mesha opened last June in the former Hue-Man Experience Book Store, ready to serve the Five Points neighborhood with fresh looks. Owner Holly Kai Hurd says the boutique's signature items are "deconstructed" denim skirts that are revitalized with inserts of neckties or Kente cloth, but there are also crocheted tops, waist beads, dashiki dresses and feminista T-shirts emblazoned with every known English synonym for "vagina." Less risqué shoppers can try Hurd's Afro-centric tees that announce "I love black people," "I'm big in Europe" or "I am a man," inspired by civil-rights-movement picket signs.


Fashion Institute of Technology graduate Mona Lucero opened her shop about two years ago and recently expanded into a sparse, wood-floored space that puts the clothing front and center. Lucero stocks some vintage-inspired styles by other designers, but they take a back seat to her work. Stop in for a simple A-line skirt in pink bouclé or a luxurious Japanese print; a sleek, multiple-seamed denim tulip skirt that opens at the bottom into pleats; form-fitting T-shirts screen-printed with uncomplicated emblems; or a tiny handbag in a variety of fabrics.


As the owner of Sparrow, Kirsten Coplans knows how hard it is for an independent, small -- no, minuscule -- business owner to build up clientele when there's little money for advertising. She and pal Melissa Santiago figured the myriad of boutiques around town were experiencing the same struggle. So they created Side Street Shopping List, a modest guide to fifteen local shops that help to keep Denver vibrant. Right now, the guide is distributed in stores -- with a coupon good at any of the participating locations included -- but Coplans hopes to someday expand to a website and instigate organized group events. Until then, she's a word-of-mouth expert.


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